Thursday, April 28, 2011

The "Pun"

For those living in the Sai Ying Pun area, there have been loads of new restaurants cropping up ever since Island Crest went up. While it's quite exciting to be living in a community where all this new development is happening, it's also sad when you wander around the neighbourhood and see just how many old buildings are being demolished. Sure, they're well past their prime but they can easily be restored rather than torn down and transformed into yet another 60-storey complex. I actually really like the feel of Sai Ying Pun - it's so distinctly local. With the construction of the West Island line and property prices surging, it's sad to think how little of this local character will be preserved.

Earlier in April, the CE approved the draft Sai Ying Pun OZP with a huge chunk of area designated for commercial and high-density residential development. Apparently there are a number of height restrictions to prevent obstructing views and the construction of excessively tall buildings, but considering the size of the buildings I've seen going up recently, I doubt the "restrictions" have any practical effect on bringing about those objectives.

Went off on a bit of a tangent there, but like I said, one of the consequences of all this new development is the increase in the variety of restaurants around the area. The first one I tried was Gourmet Kitchen:

The owner is extremely friendly and always greets me with a smile when he sees me teetering down the street to get to the trams below. This restaurant opened close to 6 months ago and while I always walk past it, I never had the time to try it since they close relatively early (I believe the last order is at 8:30).

We finally made it one night and ordered two dishes:

enoki mushrooms wrapped in beef & rice

I don't remember the exact prices but this dish was really cheap - something like $28? It was pretty yummy, the beef was nice and tender and I always love enoki mushrooms. The beans were a pass though and there was a bit too much sauce, though once you mix it with the rice it's manageable :)

fish fillet, also served with rice and beans

The fish was really yummy and if you notice on the top, it comes with a goreng pisang (fried banana)! So bizarre but made me happy! I think this dish was slightly more expensive but within the $30 region.

We also had two cups of delicious honey lemon tea (I think they use the Korean mix) which helped sooth my stomach after the saucy meal. All in all, a pretty enjoyable meal. The service was great, food came out quick, and there's definitely no complaints about the price.

The second place I went to is this new Japanese take-out store on 2nd street, right opposite Gourmet Kitchen.

I was curious as to how their business is doing as they just opened up before the Tsunami etc. and I always see their delivery bikes parked round the corner with nowhere to go... However, the night I went the place was actually pretty busy. I guess a lot of people from Island Crest drop by for food and the staff told me that it was really popular with the foreigners.

The prices aren't cheap but the quality was much better than I expected.

I ordered the Kaga set (20 pieces for $198) and an order of their inarizushi (my favourite! 6 pieces for $58). If you order over $100, they'll give you a $10 discount too.

inarizushi wrapped so pretty!

kaga set

unagi, wasabi octopus, and their signature 'salted fatty salmon'

surf clams, sea eel, shrimp, octopus, sea bass

Everything tasted really fresh and they pride themselves on using 100% Japanese rice. I loved that the rice was hot as well :) I particularly enjoyed their shrimp and sea bass. While the salmon was definitely not like anything I've tasted before with sushi, it was quite interesting - almost akin to smoked salmon. Nice and fatty, just like promised - but I do prefer the regular type.

The star though was definitely their inarizushi which I enjoyed immensely.

I definitely want to try their lunch sets which are pretty good value - you can either get 8 pieces of sushi or 3 rice balls (salmon, pickled plum, and dried bonito) for $49, miso soup and drink included. (Forgot to take a picture but their miso soup is amazing!)

I'll be taking more photos of the other restaurants in the neighbourhood - I recently moved down the street so there's a whole bunch of new places to try!

Gourmet Kitchen
G/f, 1 Second Street
Sai Ying Pun

Sushi Ieyasu
G/F, 4 Second Street
Sai Ying Pun